We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Not interacting with people outside of our immediate circle is disastrous for the social fabric of society. As the demands of Black Lives Matter protesters or transgender activists show, it increasingly seems as if some people are speaking a different language to everyone else. Words like oppression, privilege, racism, experience and identity may still be familiar, but they now mean entirely different things to different people. Phrases like ‘cis-gendered’, ‘cultural appropriation’, ‘genderfluid’ and ‘intersectional’ trip off the tongues of some, but are utterly meaningless to others. ‘Silence is violence’ is either common sense or ridiculous. Stating that there are two genders is either blindingly obvious or offensively transphobic. The existence of this language-within-a-language exposes fundamentally different ways of making sense of the world. The less we talk to each other, the more these differences crystalise.

Joanna Williams

25 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Teresa

    Uhm, NO. It’s merely the Left doing what they do best-destroying language. Two people can’t hold a conversation if one side appropriates words and bastardizes their meaning. I suspect this is the work of pin headed Marxist professors, as most of their “curricula” is turgid unreadable crap to begin with.

  • Mr Ecks

    Not interested in talking to Socialist scum. Bringing their cult to an end by any means nec’s –yes. Listening to one word of their shite..no.

  • John B

    It stems from an inability to reason because it has not been taught/learned and the resulting intellectual vacuum has been filled with feelings, evidence-free beliefs and slogans.

    Outside the circle… there be dragons.

  • In fact, I share Teresa & Ecks’ sentiments entirely 😆

    I put this up to stir the pot, because I think the original article assumes good faith where none exists.

  • jmc

    After a bunch of decades of living in San Francisco and knowing Berkeley very well for even longer I came to the conclusion long ago that the people shouting these slogans fall exclusively into several categories: trust fund babies (i.e idle rich kids); sociopaths/psychopaths; people with mental / personalty disorders (often due to domestic violence / abuse) ; fraudsters / grifters; and not very bright affluent middle class people who are the poster children for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    This is based on a very large sample of people. Often the people you see up front at Antifa / BLM “demonstrations”.

    You can have an informed and informative discussion of politics with pretty much everyone else but with these sloganeers its impossible. The more insidious ones do try to argue for a short time but invariably walk away when they realize you know all their very mendacious arguments. And how to counter them. The rest go quiet and then pointedly ignore you. Which is fine by me because they never have anything intelligent to say. About anything.

    One of these rich kids (a Saudi student) wrote a piece ins the Daily Cal recently, the UC Berkeley student newspaper, about how it was time for violent revolution.. blah..blah..blah. Very serious negative push back in the comments section for the piece but what I thought was very funny was the only comment that was guaranteed to be censored by the newspaper was to point out the fact that the vast majority of the current and past “violent revolutionaries” in Berkeley grew up in top 5% income families and a large number of them were outright very wealthy if not heirs to fortunes. There are a hell of a lot of Bill Ayers out there in the “revolutionary movement” in the US.

    You might find a few working class people in the ranks of the sloganeers. But they are always either grifters or very damaged people, one way or another.

    So treat these people as either worthless rich kids (who can be in the 50’s and 60′ by this stage), con-artists, or nutcases and you wont go to far wrong.

  • Jacob

    Nutcases they may be, but there is an awful lot of them…

  • Nullius in Verba

    Every generation invents its own slang to confound their parents. Every sub-culture invents its own jargon. Religion, politics, sport, the way you dress, the way you talk, they’re all markers of where you stand on the great division of “us” versus “them”.

    What does “Frankfurt School” or “Cultural Marxism” mean to anyone outside a particular political set? Part of the purpose of such language is precisely to put up barriers and split up the social fabric of society.

  • Bruce

    First, they steal your language, then they steal your liberty.

    Ultimately, they aim to take your life or your soul.

    This is EXACTLY the same process that is SOP / pure doctrine for the head-lopping types and their allies of convenience. Convert, be enslaved or die.

    Simple, really.

  • I don’t think there is ‘a hell of a lot of them’. I think they are simply amplified by the media.

  • Jacob

    “I think they are simply amplified by the media.”
    Created by the Universities, amplified by the media, pandered to by politicians.
    And “Society”, and “The State” seem unable and/or unwilling to put an end to this violation of people’s rights and put the thugs (protesters) behind bars where they belong.
    Western society disintegrates into chaos.
    Rule by thugs (like Putin or Xi) or by Monarchs (oh! the good old days) or by dictators – might be the lesser of evils.

  • NickM

    I think you are dead wrong here. This is waaay different from, say, a music sub-culture that (perhaps) overly cherishes it’s seperation from “the squares”. When I was a kid I don’t recall Goths or Brossettes or whatever, trying to bring down civilization as we know it.

    That the average Joe doesn’t know what the “Frankfurt School” is (I first heard of it here – largely due to Paul Marks) doesn’t matter because the average Joe is not in control. They are “end-users” in an analogy very close to computers and similar. Whatever leaders Antifa et. al. have are of course the “programmers”. It’s basically Plato but with more USB ports.

    Right. I’m now off to “culturally appropriate “French Onion Soup.

  • It’s basically Plato but with more USB ports.

    Exquisite 😆

  • Albion's Blue Front Door

    How strange that the only way the Left can put forward an argument is to label people as this or that or the other. You cannot simply be a person in the Left’s opinion; you have to have an ‘identity’ and are forced into boxes where ticks can be made and counted.

    Having been counted, the tally tells them everything they supposedly need to know to control you.

    But don’t worry, if they cannot find a convenient label for you rest assured one will be invented.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “When I was a kid I don’t recall Goths or Brossettes or whatever, trying to bring down civilization as we know it.”

    I didn’t say they did. All I said was that inventing your own language-within-a-language was normal human behaviour for sub-cultures.

    “Plato but with more USB ports”

    Nice! Using the invented language of the computing sub-culture! 1337! 🙂

    “That the average Joe doesn’t know what the “Frankfurt School” is […] doesn’t matter because the average Joe is not in control.”

    That the average Joe doesn’t know what “cis-gendered” is doesn’t matter because the average Joe is not in control. Does that make sense?

    The point is, there are lots of ‘languages-within-languages’. Language is a fractal. Like society.

    “How strange that the only way the Left can put forward an argument is to label people as this or that or the other.”

    “The Left” is a label.

    It should be: “How strange that the only way people can put forward an argument is to label people as this or that or the other.”

    And the reason it seems strange because people don’t notice when they’re doing it themselves.

  • Your Berkeley and San Francisco experience rings sadly true, jmc (September 7, 2020 at 9:47 am). As regards

    … and … poster children for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    I’m guessing this overestimation of their competence is typically accompanied by status anxiety when events too strongly challenge it. Gore Vidal assured his peers that Reagan would not be elected because “We are not Paraguay”. After Reagan was, Vidal’s fawning BBC interviewer (Melvin Bragg) delicately approached the sad (to both of them) topic of that prediction not having been quite right. “Well, I just hadn’t realised how like Paraguay we had become”, replied Vidal, in a tone that said it was America’s fault for becoming “more like Paraguay” than he’d realised, not his even for not realising the alleged fact.

    The anxiety can have its practical side, of course. Modern products of academia can be credentialed, yet without any skills to make them any more economically valuable to their fellow human beings, so either they become another of the degree-holders working behind a McDonald’s counter, or else they make the state and/or society create jobs suited to their uneconomic ‘skills’. But I’m thinking rather of people who ‘knew’ that Trump could not win but define themselves as the ones who know things.

  • Tedd

    I think it goes deeper than Williams suggests. It’s not just two different languages, or even twenty; it’s approximately as many different languages as there are people. In every sentence there’s at least one word that each person will interpret at least slightly differently from anyone else. In a complex sentence there will be many. This has always been the case. The social bubbles of the internet amplify the problem but, at the same time, the existence of bubbles outside our own confronts us with the problem. That’s why it seems like a new problem. But it’s been around as long as language.

    I’m sympathetic to the idea that the left amplifies the problem by deliberately shifting the meanings of words to suit their broader purposes. But the meta problem is that the limitations of language make that an easy strategy to employ.

  • I put this up to stir the pot, because I think the original article assumes good faith where none exists.(Samizdata Illuminatus, September 7, 2020 at 9:42 am)

    Fundamentally, I agree, but it’s worth being aware of how past practitioners of this kind of bad faith have organised it across their varied supporters.

    Hannah Arendt, analysing nazi and communist party organisations, held that the essence of the elite formations was that they knew to translate every alleged statement of ‘fact’ into a declaration of intent, not to believe it as phrased. By contrast, low-level members of front organisations and fellow-travellers may not consciously know this, but a layered mixture of gullibility and cynicism prevents this from either embarrassing the leadership or obliging them to forgo their real goals and accept only their pretended ones.

    “No properly-indoctrinated communist felt that the party was ‘lying’ in thus presenting one line in public and its exact opposite in private.”

    writes Victor Kravchenko (‘I Chose Freedom’), in a context (temporary easing of hostility to religion in the USSR during WWII) where he was explicitly warned that the masses and ‘even some low-level party members’ sometimes ‘misunderstood’. Hannah Arendt notes the nazis had their language rules (sprachregelung) – a word which was itself a ‘language rule’

    since it meant what in ordinary language was called a lie

    And just as many a Nazi never got to the first page, let alone the last, of Mein Kampf, so I suspect some of the ‘influencers’ who urged others to read “White Fragility” in the last quarter have yet to read it themselves.

    So, fundamentally, I agree: BLM is controlled by people who are a million miles away from acting in good faith, and their fellow-travellers as a group will prove a contemptibly weak reed in pressuring them on this. Individuals, however, can be influenced, can become disillusioned, can fall away, and can do this in numbers that have political consequences – and some such individuals may read Joanna Williams’ article sooner than they’ll read Samizdata.

    (Having written this, I realise NickM’s “Plato but with more USB ports” is saying something similar – and saying it a good deal more pithily 🙂 )

  • NickM

    Computing was a sub-culture when two guys called Steve built the Apple I in a garage.

    I do not know anyone who doesn’t have a USB device. Even my Dad (who is an ultra techno-phobe) has one on his camera and (despite claiming never to use the internet) always comes round my house to tax his car online.


    More than the half the global population has internet access (as of 2018).

    And that’s a sub-culture? The internet is culture or at least it’s means. Of course what one decides to promulgate via it is…

  • jmc

    @ Jacob

    There actually are n’t that many of them. The Black Bloc, who are classic casseurs, are maybe 150/200 strong in Portland with maybe a 1K /2k useful idiots support network. They have been responsible for the riots in Portland as well as were a key element in Seattle riots, both the WTO riots in 2000 and the recent one. A largish proportion of those arrested in Seattle were from the Portland area.

    The nightly riots in Portland are maybe 50% locals and the rest from all over the Pacific Northwest and West Coast and points East. Apart from sporadic trouble very little serious riots in the usual riot zones in California. Guess all the hardcore nutcases are street fighting up in Portland.

    What was interesting about SF was that after the first spasm of trouble there has been relatively little since. Not just because all the trouble-makers now live in Oakland but I get the impression that the mayor, a tough as nails black woman who grew up in the projects, was not going to let a whole bunch of stupid rich white people from out of town ruin her city. Blacks are only 5% of the city population now and a very different makeup from 40/50 years ago. So I think the word was put out, – All you rich whiteys go to Portland or Oakland if you want to cause trouble (both cities mayors are complete idiots) because you pull that sh*t in my town I’ll have your ass”. Or words to that effect. Its been very quiet recently in SF. Unlike previous mayors if some out of town rich white idiot wannbe revolutionary did not get the message the mayor does know people who could give the white idiots terminal lead poisoning. And I dont think very many of the locals who are mightily sick of it all by this stage would cause much of a fuss if it did happen.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Computing was a sub-culture when two guys called Steve built the Apple I in a garage.”

    Quite so! USB came in around 1996. At the time, it was sub-culture. A lot of the terminology migrated out, became widely understood, and thus the culture evolves. The language constantly adopts useful new vocabulary. But sub-cultures are usually where they originally come from.

    At the moment, terms like ‘intersectional’ are sub-culture, but if they last they’ll eventually be widely understood and be part of the culture. (So for example, consider the way ‘conservative white men’ get a raw deal in modern politically correct society. White women get a pass because they can say “but I’m a woman”. Black men get a pass because they can say “I am black”. Even some white men can get a pass if they can say “I am left-wing”. So the problem cannot be ascribed to discrimination against any of the conservative/white/male groups individually, but only their intersection. That’s ‘intersectionality’. Not hard to understand. The only question is whether it will prove to be useful to have a shorthand term for it.)

  • Ah, linguistics! I’m putting together a collection of essays on fan-fiction and gender. The reactions of my writers’ group suggested it needed a glossary. That’s reasonable – fandom is a subculture filled with sub-subcultures. When I started looking up fan glossaries on the web, there was a lot of diversity. There was overlap, but a Doctor Who glossary looked nothing like a shojo anime glossary. Mine only took about 4000 words, but I have seen larger.

    I’m in a lot of low-population linguistic groups: computing, nuclear physics, woodworking, blacksmithing. Computers are part of my world – I’ve been using them for 60 years. Back in the Sixties, I ported Spacewar from a PDP-1 to a Control Data 3100. I’m absolutely rotten at explaining them to newcomers, because I don’t know which words they will understand. I refuse to talk nuclear physics because there’s too much politics – what I say is seldom what they hear.

    That is bad enough. The terrors unleashed by groups that deliberately twist their glossaries are worse than simple misunderstandings.

  • The terrors unleashed by groups that deliberately twist their glossaries are worse than simple misunderstandings. (Ellen, September 8, 2020 at 1:39 am)

    +1. If this thread is coming to an end, that is a good summary sentence for it to end on.

  • It is natural. Hamilton’s rule says you can’t totally end racism. People prefer their kin. The closer the kin the greater the preference.

  • Paul Marks

    The post is a quotation giving Frankfurt School of Marxism doctrines – but no where does the post say they are Frankfurt School of Marxism doctrines.

    That is the problem – even the term “Critical Theory” is sometimes used without being identified as Frankfurt School of Marxism.

    If someone uses, with real approval, language such as “cisgender”, “cultural appropriation”, “intersectional”, “silence is violence” and so on, then they are a Frankfurt School “Cultural” Marxist – they are out to enslave, or exterminate, people who do not share their beliefs. Their objective is a totalitarian society.

    There is no mystery here, the language of “Critical Theory” (the Frankfurt School of Marxism) is what it is – and it is generally known now.

    I suspect, more than suspect, that the refusal of some people to understand this, is cowardice.

    The idea seems to be that if one sticks one’s head in the sand the enemy will will not see you – even will-not-exist.

    But they will see you – and they most certainly exist.

    Defeat the followers of “Critical Theory” or be enslaved by them – there is third alternative.

    “But Paul – people who use this language with approval dominate the education system, and the government bureaucracy and even Big Corporate Business”.

    I did not say the enemy was not powerful. Some of them are cowards who do not really believe the language they use (they are just using the language to protect their own jobs) – but some of them do believe it.

    With them, with the ones who actually believe the Marxist doctrines, it is going to go hard.

    Be destroyed by the them – or destroy them.

    There is no third alternative – not with them.

    Nor is this recent or an example of youth culture. It goes back a lot way and the ones who are serious about their beliefs (and they can be of any age) are fully prepared to kill. As they have already shown.

    When Black Lives Matter was founded back in 2014 the founders made it clear they were inspired by a Marxist who was killing people back in the 1970s – she is still alive (living in Cuba presently).

    This goes back a lot further than the 1970s – indeed it goes back a lot further than Karl Marx.

    The Corporations who fund such organisations know what they are giving money to – they know it goes to a movement that burns store owners alive in their own stores.

    The academics who teach this stuff to the future Media, government bureaucrats and Corporate managers, also know.

    It is not recent – it is as old as human race.

  • Beedle

    The post is a quotation giving Frankfurt School of Marxism doctrines – but no where does the post say they are Frankfurt School of Marxism doctrines.

    Suggest you write to the author demanding they pander to your specific obsession & approved phraseology, even if they think bandying about terms like Frankfurt School in 2020 isn’t really germane, rather than making the point they actually want to make, that’s sure to work.